Here we go with Week 12:
#2 Appalachian State (9-2, 7-0 1st) @ Western Carolina (3-8, 1-6 8th)
Stadium: Whitmire Stadium
Surface: Gameday Grass
Jeff Sagarin Rankings:
Home advantage: 2.92 points
ASU is favored by the Sagarin rankings by 26 points (rounded).
Series: ASU leads 53-18-1
Last Meeting: ASU 79, WCU 35; November 10th 2007
Mountaineer fans will always have a special memory when thinking about playing Western Carolina. It has nothing to do with the fact that this series has been dominated by Appalachian since its inception. It has nothing to do with the “Old Mountain Jug” that sits at Owens Field House, year after year. The 2004 game in which Appalachian squandered a late fourth quarter lead and gave one the Catamounts will be the game Appalachian fans will remember most. It was the next day that folks were calling for our head coach to resign. At the same time, Jerry Moore decided there was time for a change. The Appalachian offensive scheme was changed from a pass heavy no huddle offense, to the offense they have to this day, the run heavy no huddle spread attack. Since that fateful November night in 2004, Appalachian has won 48 of its last 56 football games, including three national championships. Western Carolina decided to make a change the day after the most lopsided loss to Appalachian in the “Old Mountain Jug” era. They fired the entire coaching staff after the 79-35 thrashing. During the offseason, they hired Dennis Wagner for one reason: Beat Appalachian. Wagner has improved the Catamounts. They did break their oblivious SoCon losing streak by defeating Chattanooga and have won three games this season and lost a tough game at home to Georgia Southern. The tide is turning in Cullowhee and Dennis Wagner will face one the main objectives in his job description. Can the Cats play the spoiler like 1998 when Appalachian was all but assured the No. 2 seed in the playoffs? Or, will the Apps take care of business like usual?
For the most part of the season, the Catamounts were employing a dual headed quarterback system. The rotation has been between and Zach Jaynes and Adam Horn. Jaynes has been the guy under center in the last three games, losses to Elon and Georgia Southern and a win over Chattanooga. Jaynes has thrown for 1100 yards and ten touchdowns on the season, with four interceptions. Horn, who last received significant playing time in the loss to Wofford, has thrown for 1074 yards and seven touchdowns and only one interception.
Receiver Adam Hearnes is Western’s “CoCo Hillary”. The former quarterback in high school has now become the Catamount’s leading receiver with 47 catches for 415 yards and three touchdowns and has also seen some time under center with 100 yards passing and one touchdown. Also leading the Western receivers are Marquel Pittman with 39 catches for 561 yards and four touchdowns and Donald James with31 catches 319 yards and two touchdowns. The Western rushing attack is led by Quan Warley who has rushed for 644 yards and two touchdowns. Warley makes up for 52% of the total rushing yards for Western on the season. Sadly, for the Catamounts, Pittman, James, and Warley are considered doubtful for this weekend’s game.
The Mountaineers know all too well about how injuries can affect a football team. It seems as the Mountaineers have not a full stable of running backs since the beginning of the season. Devon Moore, injured in the James Madison game, is likely seeking a medical redshirt. Devin Radford has been in and out of the lineup with a shoulder injury. Robert Whelton has had a bum ankle for weeks, but continues to grind it out. All of those injuries have forced Josh Jackson and Matt Cline into the spotlight and they have filled in admirably. Armanti Edwards has also taken a hit as well, as he has been expected to get more carries with all of the hurt running backs. Edwards suffered two different injuries last week: a bruised knee and a hip pointer. The knee is supposedly ok. The hip is causing a few more problems but Coach Moore expects him to play. Regardless of how hurt Armanti is or is not, the key to the spread offense is to have a quarterback that is 100% healthy. A quarterback who is hurt is an extreme disadvantage. I would much rather have DeAndre Pressley in than Armanti hurt, despite the implications.
Every two years, this is the game that worries me the most. Playing at Western is a little creepier than playing in Boone. Western’s last two wins in the series have been in Cullowhee. It has been since 1984 that the Catamounts last won in Boone. Just stating facts, Western’s football program has been at the bottom of the conference for several years now. More often that not, this game means to the Catamount faithful more than any other single game. It is usually the last game of the year and the Catamounts have nothing to play for other than pride. Meanwhile, for the past three years, for Appalachian, it is a game that you want to get out of with no injuries, pick up the win, and get ready for the playoffs. That is the exact same situation we have in 2008 as well. A win by Western Carolina would be an upset, which would be no different from the norm. I am sure there are some Catamount seniors that would love to forget the 79 points that was on the scoreboard after last years win in Boone. Most likely, 79 points might be the total points for both teams this year, considering how young both teams are and the injury situation. Western likes to control the ball, and will use a short passing game to move the chains and run the ball to keep the defense honest. They average over 33 minutes of possession per game. Despite the ball hogging, it has not resulted in a lot of points. Western is averaging 18.3 points per contest. On the other hand, the Mountaineer defense has been stifling in the last four games, giving up only 15.25 points per contest, against some of the better offenses in the conference. Western leads the conference in pass defense, a statistic that is very misleading. Their rush defense has been giving up 197 yards per contest, something that Appalachian will surely attack. Teams have not needed to pass on Western when they are having so much ease running the ball. On paper it just doesn’t make any sense. With or without a healthy Armanti Edwards, the Mountaineers should take this game with ease. The Jug will ride to Cullowhee for a visit and then return to rightful resting place in Owens Field House.
The First Pick:
Kitty Kat 13
Big Bad Apps 35